THE CHRONICLES OF A CAPITALIST LAWYER

RANDOM THOUGHTS OF A CAPITALIST LAWYER ON LAW, ECONOMICS, AND EVERYTHING ELSE

Showing posts with label Legal Theory. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Legal Theory. Show all posts
  • Sekali Lagi soal Penolakan Perpu yang Mencabut Undang-Undang (Tanggapan kepada Mahfud MD)


    Minggu lalu, saya sempat mengkritik pendapat Moh. Mahfud MD, mantan Ketua Mahkamah Konstitusi Republik Indonesia dan Guru Besar Hukum Konstitusi, mengenai akibat hukum ditolaknya suatu Peraturan Pemerintah Pengganti Undang-Undang ("Perpu") yang sebelumnya mencabut keberlakuan suatu Undang-Undang ("UU"). Ternyata cukup banyak yang melontarkan kritik yang serupa sehingga akhirnya Prof. Mahfud mencoba mengelaborasi pendapatnya tersebut melalui artikel di Koran Sindo.  

    Elaborasi yang ditawarkan oleh Prof. Mahfud menurut saya tidak tepat dan justru semakin menambah kerumitan yang tidak perlu. Pertama-tama, dia berargumen bahwa UU yang dicabut oleh Perpu tidak otomatis berlaku kembali apabila Perpu ditolak oleh DPR, karena Perpu tersebut bukannya tidak sah, melainkan ditolak untuk menjadi UU. Prof. Mahfud juga menambahkan bahwa pandangan UU yang dicabut oleh Perpu akan otomatis berlaku kembali apabila Perpu ditolak ini mungkin hanya akan benar dalam bidang hukum perdata, tetapi kurang tepat apabila diberlakukan untuk hukum tata negara.

    Pertanyaannya adalah, apa perbedaan mendasar antara Perpu yang dianggap tidak sah dengan Perpu yang ditolak oleh DPR? Bukankah artinya sama saja? Apabila Perpu ditolak oleh DPR, maka secara logika hukum, Perpu tersebut menjadi tidak memiliki kekuatan hukum secara keseluruhan, termasuk ketentuan dalam Perpu tersebut yang mencabut UU yang lama. Kita memahami dalam ilmu perundang-undangan bahwa suatu UU hanya bisa dicabut oleh UU atau peraturan perundang-undangan yang mempunyai kekuatan setara dengan UU (dalam hal ini, Perpu yang syarat penerbitannya terbatas). Apabila UU yang mencabut suatu UU dinyatakan tidak berlaku, mengapa kemudian UU yang sebelumnya dicabut itu menjadi hilang begitu saja?    

    Kemudian teori hukum mana yang menyatakan bahwa konsep pembatalan ini hanya berlaku untuk hukum perdata tetapi tidak untuk hukum tata negara? Saya khawatir bahwa Prof. Mahfud sendiri yang sebenarnya sedang mencampuradukkan konsep hukum perdata dengan hukum tata negara. Apa arti suatu pembatalan atas perjanjian dalam hukum perdata? Apakah perjanjian yang dapat dibatalkan sama artinya dengan batal demi hukum? Menurut saya sama saja dampak hukumnya. Apabila suatu perjanjian "dibatalkan" maka perjanjian itu dianggap tidak pernah ada, dan para pihak dikembalikan kepada status semula sepanjang memang memungkinkan secara aktual.

    Kemungkinan lainnya adalah perjanjian diakhiri (bukan dibatalkan), dalam hal ini, pengakhiran perjanjian tidak serta merta menyebabkan para pihak dikembalikan ke keadaan semula. Bisa jadi para pihak masih harus menyelesaikan beberapa kewajiban yang masih terhutang sebelum perjanjian diakhiri. Yang pasti, kewajiban para pihak yang baru akan muncul setelah perjanjian diakhiri menjadi tidak ada lagi, jadi sifatnya adalah berlaku ke depan.

    Yang saya tangkap dari Prof. Mahfud, suatu Perpu yang ditolak seakan-akan berarti bahwa Perpu tersebut diakhiri, bukan dibatalkan, sehingga akibatnya hanya akan ke depan saja, dan UU yang dicabut oleh Perpu tetap tidak berlaku sekalipun Perpu yang mencabutnya sudah tidak berlaku lagi. Entah ini memang pendapat serius atau pendapat yang dikeluarkan karena sudah terlanjur menyatakan di Twitter bahwa akan terjadi kekosongan hukum apabila Perpu ditolak.

    Prof. Mahfud juga kurang teliti karena sebenarnya solusi untuk permasalahan ini sudah diatur dengan jelas dalam Pasal 52 Ayat (5), (6), (7) dan (8) dari Undang-Undang No. 12 Tahun 2011 tentang Pembentukan Peraturan Perundang-Undangan ("UU 12/2011"). Pasal 52 Ayat (5) UU 12/2011 menyatakan apabila Perpu tidak disetujui oleh DPR dalam rapat paripurna, maka Perpu tersebut harus dicabut dan dinyatakan tidak berlaku. Selanjutnya Pasal 52 Ayat (6) dan (8) UU 12/2011 menyatakan bahwa karena Perpu harus dicabut dan dinyatakan tidak berlaku, maka diperlukan RUU pencabutan terhadap Perpu yang selanjutnya akan disahkan dalam rapat paripurna yang sama (saya berasumsi ini karena penyusun UU mencoba taat asas dengan teori bahwa suatu peraturan perundang-undangan hanya bisa dicabut dengan peraturan perundang-undangan yang setara levelnya).

    Terakhir berdasarkan Pasal 52 Ayat (7) UU 12/2011, RUU di atas akan mengatur segala akibat hukum dari pencabutan Perpu yang dimaksud. Artinya, tidak mungkin akan ada kekosongan hukum sebagaimana dilansir oleh Prof. Mahfud. Apabila ada keragu-raguan, maka UU yang mencabut Perpu dapat mengatur bagaimana nantinya akibat hukum dari dicabutnya Perpu tersebut dan sah-sah saja tentunya apabila kemudian UU ini menyatakan bahwa UU yang sebelumnya dicabut oleh Perpu akan berlaku kembali. Teori hukum mana yang menyatakan hal ini tidak dimungkinkan? 

    Bahkan seandainya pun ternyata DPR diam saja dan UU yang mencabut Perpu tersebut hanya menyatakan bahwa Perpu tidak lagi berlaku secara hukum, maka tidak akan ada kekosongan hukum karena dengan dicabutnya Perpu, dasar hukum pencabutan dari UU oleh Perpu tersebut juga menjadi tidak ada (ingat, Perpu dinyatakan tidak berlaku, dan tidak berlaku artinya tidak memiliki kekuatan hukum), dan dengan demikian, UU yang dicabut oleh Perpu akan berlaku kembali secara otomatis. Hal ini tidak membutuhkan putusan pengadilan. Pendapat Prof. Mahfud bahwa kasus uji materil atas UU Ketenagalistrikan tidak dapat digunakan untuk menjawab permasalahan penolakan Perpu ini juga menurut saya tidak ada dasarnya. Secara analogis, isunya sangat mirip dan prinsip hukumnya sama.

    Kalau kita mau serius, sebenarnya ada isu yang seharusnya jauh lebih genting bagi para ahli hukum tata negara kita yang sangat cemerlang dan cendekia, yaitu mengenai penafsiran atas Pasal 71 Ayat (3) dari UU 12/2011. Pasal ini mengatur bahwa RUU yang mencabut keberlakuan Perpu harus disetujui secara bersamaan dalam rapat paripurna DPR yang menyatakan bahwa Perpu tidak disetujui oleh DPR. Isunya adalah, kalimat dalam Pasal tersebut tidak menjelaskan apakah RUU tersebut hanya perlu disetujui oleh anggota DPR atau harus disetujui secara bersama oleh DPR dan Presiden (karena Presiden seharusnya juga hadir dalam rapat tersebut dan juga berhak mengajukan RUU pencabutan Perpu).

    Untuk pembahasan UU biasa, rapat paripurna pada prinsipnya dihadiri oleh wakil Pemerintah dan DPR dan UU tersebut perlu disetujui bersama oleh mereka. Pasal 71 Ayat (2) menyatakan bahwa pembahasan RUU yang mencabut Perpu dilakukan secara berbeda dengan proses RUU biasa, tetapi sebagaimana saya sampaikan di atas, tidak jelas persetujuan siapa yang dibutuhkan.

    Secara teoretis, dari sudut pandang mekanisme check and balance, seharusnya persetujuan Presiden tidak dibutuhkan bagi RUU yang akan mencabut Perpu. Mengapa demikian? Karena apabila persetujuan Presiden dibutuhkan maka Presiden akan memiliki kekuatan tak terbatas untuk menciptakan peraturan setingkat UU semaunya sendiri. Presiden akan memiliki kewenangan untuk menyusun Perpu setiap saat dan apabila DPR tidak menyetujui hal tersebut, maka Presiden hanya tinggal menolak RUU atas pencabutan Perpu sehingga Perpu akan terus berlaku (mengingat UU 12/2011 mensyaratkan bahwa Perpu hanya bisa dicabut oleh UU).

    Mungkin akan ada yang berargumen bahwa persetujuan Presiden tetap dibutuhkan atas RUU yang mencabut Perpu karena dengan demikian, DPR bisa menentukan sendiri isi dari RUU yang akan mencabut Perpu dan nanti justru DPR yang akan dapat bertindak seenaknya. Pendapat ini menurut saya berlebihan. DPR mengambil keputusan secara kolektif dan melibatkan banyak pihak. Hal itu saja sebenarnya sudah menciptakan semacam mekanisme check and balance secara internal dalam tubuh DPR sehingga seharusnya tidak mudah bagi DPR untuk bisa bertindak semaunya (saya tidak percaya suatu koalisi multi partai dapat berjalan dengan solid secara terus menerus). Bandingkan dengan Presiden, satu orang yang memiliki kekuasaan yang sangat besar dalam menentukan laju pemerintahan (bahwa kalau kemudian Presidennya sendiri memutuskan untuk tidak mengambil sikap dalam banyak hal, itu bukan salah sistemnya, itu salah Presidennya sendiri).

    Selain itu, karena Perpu awalnya disusun dan disahkan oleh Presiden sendiri, tentunya tidak masuk akal apabila kemudian Presiden juga berhak menelaah isi aturan yang mencabut Perpu yang dibuatnya. Apabila keputusan penolakan serta penyusunan isi RUU pencabutan Perpu ditentukan sepenuhnya oleh DPR, maka Presiden akan memiliki tambahan insentif untuk lebih berhati-hati dalam menerbitkan Perpu sehingga tidak membuka kesempatan kepada DPR untuk memasukkan RUU yang mereka rancang dan setujui sendiri sebagai pengganti dari Perpu yang dimaksud.

    Ini isu yang menurut saya lebih riil dan krusial bagi sistem pemerintahan kita daripada isu soal kemungkinan terjadinya kekosongan hukum yang mustahil, saya ulangi sekali lagi, mustahil terjadi apabila Perpu yang mencabut UU ditolak oleh DPR. Sebagai ahli hukum, kita harus jujur. Kita menjual kemampuan kita, bukan menjual keyakinan kita (selling our skills, not our faith). Kita bisa menggunakan peluang dan celah yang ada, tetapi semua itu ada batasnya, karena ini hukum, bukan sulap atau sihir.

  • Akibat Hukum dari Ditolaknya Perpu yang Mencabut Undang-Undang


    Jangan tertipu dengan judul artikel ini yang terlihat rumit. Isunya sebenarnya sangat sederhana. Apabila suatu Peraturan Pemerintah Pengganti Undang-Undang ("Perpu") yang mencabut keberlakuan suatu Undang-Undang ("UU") ternyata ditolak oleh DPR, maka otomatis Perpu itu menjadi batal demi hukum dan UU yang dicabut oleh Perpu akan kembali berlaku. Mengapa demikian? Karena aturan yang mencabutnya lenyap dan dianggap tidak pernah ada, dengan sendirinya UU yang bersangkutan pun juga dianggap tidak pernah dicabut. Ini logika hukum mendasar yang wajib dipahami semua sarjana hukum semester pertama di Indonesia.

    Makanya saya luar biasa terkejut ketika kemarin membaca pendapat dari Mahfud MD di Twitter yang menyatakan bahwa dalam kasus UU Pilkada, apabila Perpu Pencabutan UU Pilkada ditolak oleh DPR, maka akan terjadi kekosongan hukum karena Perpu dan UU Pilkada sama-sama tidak berlaku lagi. Lebih lucu lagi, Mahfud MD menyatakan bahwa para ahli hukum tata negara juga belum dapat memberikan solusi atas isu kekosongan hukum tersebut dan bahwa ini merupakan kasus pertama di Indonesia. Berlebihan kalau pertanyaan semudah ini tidak bisa dijawab oleh para ahli hukum tata negara. Kalau mereka tidak mampu menjawabnya, seharusnya mereka bahkan tidak lulus jadi sarjana hukum.

    Yang lebih ironis lagi, Mahkamah Konstitusi ("MK") sendiri sebenarnya sudah pernah menjawab isu hukum sederhana di atas dengan tegas melalui Putusan No. 001-021-022/PUU-I/2003 tanggal 1 Desember 2004 tentang Uji Materil terhadap UU No. 20 Tahun 2002 tentang Ketenagalistrikan ("UU No. 20/2002"). Putusan tersebut membatalkan secara keseluruhan isi dari UU No. 20/2002 karena dianggap bertentangan dengan Konstitusi.

    Apakah kemudian tiba-tiba terjadi kekosongan hukum di bidang ketenagalistrikan karena UU No. 20/2002 dicabut? Sama sekali tidak. Dalam pertimbangan hukumnya (lihat halaman 350 dari putusan), MK menyatakan: "guna menghindari kekosongan hukum (rechtsvacuum), maka undang-undang yang lama di bidang ketenagalistrikan, yaitu UU No. 15 Tahun 1985 tentang Ketenagalistrikan (Lembaran Negara Republik Indonesia Tahun 1985 Nomor 74, Tambahan Lembaran Negara Nomor 3317) berlaku kembali karena Pasal 70 UU No. 20 Tahun 2002 yang menyatakan tidak berlakunya UU No. 15 Tahun 1985 termasuk ketentuan yang dinyatakan tidak mempunyai kekuatan hukum mengikat."

    Dengan membaca pertimbangan putusan di atas, permasalahan hukum ini menjadi sejelas matahari terik di siang hari tak berawan. Jangan membuat orang awam bingung. Kekosongan hukum hanya mungkin timbul apabila peraturan perundang-undangan yang dicabut ternyata mengandung suatu norma hukum yang sebelumnya belum pernah diatur. Lebih jauh lagi, kekosongan hukum juga tidak selalu berarti buruk, tidak semua hal di dunia ini perlu diatur oleh hukum! Artikel dari Tim Harford ini bisa menjadi contoh bagus mengapa tidak semua hal perlu diatur oleh hukum.

    Yang pasti, Perpu yang dikeluarkan oleh SBY bukan langkah yang akan menghentikan keberlakuan UU Pilkada secara efektif. DPR cukup menyatakan tidak setuju terhadap Perpu tersebut dan UU Pilkada akan kembali berlaku secara otomatis (tidak perlu DPR dan Pemerintah kemudian sibuk menyusun UU Pilkada baru).

    Secara terpisah, saya juga mengkritik keras dikeluarkannya Perpu Pilkada. Ini contoh yang sangat buruk bagi hukum tata negara kita, khususnya karena besar kemungkinan penerbitan Perpu Pilkada tidak memenuhi persyaratan utama dari penerbitan suatu Perpu, yaitu kegentingan yang memaksa (apanya yang genting dan memaksa saat ini?). Selain itu, sudah ada mekanisme hukum lainnya yang bisa digunakan untuk melawan UU Pilkada bagi mereka yang tidak setuju dengan isinya, yaitu melakukan uji formil dan materil ke MK. Kalau memang niatnya benar dari awal, kenapa tidak fokus saja menjalani aturan yang sudah cukup jelas ini?
  • Once Again, In Defense of Legal Positivism


    This article is a continuation of my previous article: In Defense of Legal Positivism - A Reply to Iman Nasima. Since Imam has kindly responded to my article here, I think it should be appropriate to press the discussion one step further (though I have to apologize for the huge delay in responding to his second article).

    Legal Positivism is Not a Method of Legal Interpretation

    The first question that I asked in my previous article is: how critics to Legal Positivism perceive Legal Positivism? Is it a legal theory or method of interpretation? For me, the answer is obvious. Legal Positivism does not deal with method of legal interpretation, it is a theory of law.

    Why does this distinction matter? Because from my readings of various people who criticizes Legal Positivism, I get a tendency that they equate Legal Positivism with strict Textualism or Legal Formalism, i.e. that under Legal Positivism, judges tend to interpret the laws solely based on the texts of the formal laws issued by the state, and that these judges do not consider other basic principles such as justice and morality when they can found a governing law in resolving legal matters.

    Of course this is completely wrong and shows a lack of understanding of what is Legal Positivism. You cannot make a good critic if you don't understand the concept that you criticize. It will simply be a waste of time for everyone.      

    Whose Authority?

    This is indeed a really difficult question. In practice, questioning the normativity of law will not be completed without asking who is the authority that must be honored in the first place. This is in line with the support given by Legal Positivism to the Source Thesis, i.e. that the existence of law can be solely derived from its sources and not its contents.

    Under the Source Thesis, people can recognize the existence of the law by paying attention to the sources of that law, i.e. the authority who issues the law. HLA Hart tried to explain this thesis through Rules of Recognition, i.e. secondary rules in a legal system that give guideline on when certain rules can be treated as laws.

    When certain rules meet the criteria of the Rules of Recognition, those rules will be deemed as laws with all of their authoritative/normative power upon their subjects. The problem is, who stipulates the rules of recognition and why we should follow those rules of recognition in the first place?

    At this stage, Legal Positivism as a descriptive theory of law would be unable to answer that question. Why? Because it is a question of fact. Imam correctly shows that there are various competing theories on dealing with the concept of authority and how authorities derive their power.

    To give more context on the above discussion, I recently read Justice Scalia and Bryan Garner's  treatise on Legal Interpretation where they said that British and US judges differ in terms of authority. In England, the judges can hold the same position with legislators, so they can make the law and interpret the provisions at the same time. While in the United States, the power to make laws lies with the legislators while judges are required to enforce the laws.

    The basis for this separation of power in US (at least according to Scalia and Garner) is to maintain the basic principles of democracy, i.e. that laws should be promulgated by representatives of the people that will be held accountable to their voters, and not by judges who are not appointed through democratic process.

    It's an interesting theory of how judges and legislators should behave in a legal system, but I'm not sure that we can consider this as a pure legal theory. It's more of a political theory. There is no legal basis on why judges should behave like what Scalia said nor a rule of recognition for that given the fact that judges in the United States are still debating on their roles in the legal system.

    The same thing is also applicable for  Indonesian case. Suppose that judges political power is weak here, would that be a concern of Legal Positivism? I would say no and that would be enough for the purpose of defending Legal Positivism. From the very beginning, what I want to show through my previous article is that the critics misunderstand the issue. If the judicial branch is weak in Indonesia, it does not have any correlation with Legal Positivism as a theory of law. 

    How Social Facts Are Determined?

    In dealing with Imam's second question, I find it interesting that he made a correlation between public acceptance of judges decision with the normative power of such decision. Should the judges decision be accepted by the majority of the public in order to be eligible to be considered as a valid law?

    As interesting as it may be, it is actually not a question that can be answered by Legal Positivism as a descriptive theory of law. It is again, a question of fact. Legal Positivism only says that law is a social fact, that its existence relies on the acceptance of the majority, including the people and legal authorities.

    However, Legal Positivism is silent on the actual practices of social acceptance because they can have many different forms. Theoretically speaking, we can have a legal system where court's decisions will be automatically considered as an authoritative source regardless of public acceptance of the content, and it is also possible to have a legal system where in order to obtain validity, a court's decision should be accepted first by the majority of the people. Can we use Legal Positivism to endorse the first system against the second one and vice versa? I don't think so.

    In fact, we already have a very good example when we discuss the power of judicial precedents. It is common to aspiring Indonesian law students that in Indonesia (and other civil law countries), unlike in the common law countries, the principle of stare decisis, i.e. that a court's decision will be considered as a binding precedent to be followed by future court decisions, is not applicable. Thus, in Indonesia, future judges are free to disregard previous decisions and make their own decisions for a similar case.

    Will Legal Positivism say that common law stare decisis system is better than civil law system? No. Can Legal Positivism explain why Indonesia and civil law countries choose to abandon stare decisis system? No.

    But I am confident that Legal Positivism can explain to us that stare decisis is not applicable in Indonesia because most, if not all, of Indonesian legal authorities reject the concept. In other words, under Indonesian rules of recognition, court decisions do not have binding precedent power toward future court decisions (at least as of the date of this article). Can this rule of recognition change in the future? Might be, who knows? 

    Can Law and Economics Succeed in Indonesia?
     
    Imam claimed in his article that Law and Economics method will fail as long as the judicial power is not strong enough to uphold any form of legal certainty. I do not think so. After all, judicial branch is just a part of the overall legal system and Law and Economics can become a mainstream legal thought through many windows, including the academic world and other branches of government.

    When Imam mentioned the names of Posner, Dworkin, Barak, etc, I do not think that he discussed their debates in legal theory but more on legal interpretation method. This is not relevant to Legal Positivism. How the judges should interpret the laws is not a question for Legal Positivism (the same mistake made by Dworkin when he criticized Legal Positivism).

    As a descriptive legal theory, Legal Positivism would be more interested on what are the actual methods of interpretation that are acceptable in a legal system. What does this mean? In a situation where there is no clear ground rules for legal interpretation, every system of legal thought can fight for domination.

    As I said in my previous article, Law and Economics was not a mainstream thought in the United States prior to the 1970s era. It was thanks to Richard Posner and many other academics and political patrons that Law and Economics could finally gain a dominant position in the US legal thought. We see more judges using economic analysis in resolving cases.

    How about in the executive branch? It was Cass Sunstein who brought cost and benefit analysis to the next level in the US government regulatory making process through his office, OIRA. Is this because of Legal Positivim? Of course not, it's a political and academic fight. The same thing can also happen in the legislative branch through political process.

    This is what I want to reiterate to the misleading critics of Legal Positivism. If you want to ensure that your personal legal thought (whatever that is) can dominate Indonesian legal thought, it is a waste of time to criticize Legal Positivism because it is not Legal Positivism's mistake in the first place. In short, try other persuasive methods and good luck with that.

  • In Defense of Legal Positivism - A Reply to Imam Nasima


    As the title says, this article is a reply to a very interesting post from Imam Nasima on Legal Positivism Trend in Indonesian Legal System. As interesting as it may be, personally, the article raised a fundamental question, i.e. did Imam and the people he mentioned in his article discuss Legal Positivism as a legal theory or as a method of legal interpretation? If they talked about the second, I'm afraid that there is a misunderstanding here and my gut feeling says that this is a mistake similarly made by the majority of Indonesian legal scholars who deal with progressive legal theory.

    Legal Positivism as explained by HLA Hart does not specifically deal with method of legal interpretation. After all, it is a theory about the law, on why law exists and has authority upon the people. In Hart's view, a rule existing in the society shall be treated as a law when the majority of the people in such society accept the authority of such rule from an internal point of view and the legal officers in such society treat such law as an authoritative source in rendering their decision.

    Hans Kelsen, the father of Legal Positivism in the Civil Law tradition, also holds a similar position, albeit in a more normative way, i.e. that the validity of the laws is based on power conferring norms existing in a hierarchical system until we reach the basic norm where we presuppose the authority of such basic norm. Upon reaching the basic norm, Kelsen believes that the acceptance of the community of such basic norm is basically a social fact, something that cannot be explained by legal theory anymore.        

    Thus, in short, under Legal Positivism, law is a social fact, and to certain extent, it might be just a matter of head count. If most people believe and treat a rule as a law, such rule will eventually be considered as a valid law (of course this is a super simplified version of the theory). This however, brings us to the next question i.e., what's the relationship between Legal Positivism and legal interpretation?

    A book titled: "Between Authority and Interpretation" written by Joseph Raz, one of Hart's best students, can give a good hint that a theory on legal authority does not automatically deals with theory on legal interpretation. In fact, to the best of my knowledge, I do not think that legal positivism endorses certain kind of legal interpretation method over another method.

    This is the crucial point when we deal with Imam's post. From my reading, the critics to Legal Positivism made by the people in his post seem to be confused because they mix up Legal Positivism with rigid textualism. The idea that judges and lawyers should see beyond the text of the law is not an idea rejected by Legal Positivism.

    Hart, which was also a master of the linguistic philosophy, acknowledges that there is a limitation for languages in delivering meaning, namely, there is a penumbra, a condition where confident speaker of the language will have different interpretation of a term. In other words, languages might not be able to convey the full intention of the speaker. And in such case, interpretation would be necessary.

    Granted, in Hart's view, legal cases should be divided into two types, the easy cases and the hard cases whereas in easy cases, legal interpretation should be minimum since the judges will only need to apply the relevant law to the particular facts while in hard cases, judges will have more discretion. But even in easy cases, Hart believes that there are instances where judges do not have to apply the rules due to reasons such as justice and morality.

    Regarding the above division of easy and hard cases, rather than making a normative argument, I think that Hart is making a practical argument, namely, the division is made based on his assessment of judges practices in the real world.

    Most modern legal positivists believe that there is no prima facie moral obligation to obey the law, i.e. that the law does not have the highest power to exchange any moral reasoning that can be used by someone as a reason for action. The authority of the law simply lies in the fact that most of us accept such law as an authoritative source but it does not necessarily mean that we have a primary moral duty to obey the law and disregard any other moral reasoning.     

    This is consistent, I believe, with Hart's theory that law is a social fact. It is the fact in the real world that will determine how the law will be accepted, implemented and interpreted. Hart's theory of Legal Positivism therefore cannot be expected to endorse certain moral values or method of legal interpretation.           

    So what is the real problem here? If legal positivism can accept interpretation of legal texts, why are we still seeing people blaming Legal Positivism for the lack of progressive movements in Indonesia legal community?

    Two possible explanations can be given here. First, the majority of Indonesian judges might actually believe that the law should be interpreted rigidly. Second, rigid interpretation is only being used to justify judges prior belief on certain moral and social issues. For both cases, further research should be done to know what the judges really think. In the United States, such type of research is common because their legal scholars really want to understand how judges will decide cases and what factors will be considered by them. I don't know though about Indonesia or whether our researchers will walk on the same path.

    In any case, given the above explanations, I do not think that Legal Positivism can be blamed for the rigidity of the judges (assuming that is correct). Again, we return to the concept of law as a social fact. Legal Positivism will just say that descriptively, the majority of Indonesian judges adhere to strict textualism. Therefore, we can say that in Indonesia, the use of strict textualism will be considered as an authoritative way of reading the law. That's it. As simple as that.

    Whether having strict textualist judges is good or not is a completely different question and I don't think that Legal Positivism would have the answer because it is not in the scope of a descriptive/positive theory to say about something normative such as, whether we ought to have judges who are not strict textualists and who will consider other norms and values in rendering their decision.

    For me, the fact that Indonesian judges are strict textualists (again, if the assumption is correct since we need more data) does not have any correlation with Legal Positivism. I mean, I am a supporter of Law and Economics movement, who believe that legal rules should be interpreted in a way that maximize efficiency and the welfare of the society, and at the same time, I am also a Legal Positivist. 

    Can that actually happen? Being a Legal Positivist and at the same time becoming a supporter of Law and Economics? Why not? The problem is, Law and Economics is not yet a mainstream thought in Indonesian legal community and therefore, I would safely assume that most Indonesian judges would not taking it seriously, or even consider it as a part of valid consideration in deciding cases.

    But should I blame Legal Positivism for such problem? Of course not. The only reason why strict textualism can become an authoritative method of interpretation is because most of the judges adhere to such method, not because Legal Positivism imposes a normative criteria that good judges should only use strict textualism in order to become authoritative. 

    If say, I would be able to convince most Indonesian judges in the future that Law and Economics is the best method of legal interpretation and most of them accept such theory and apply it in their cases, would not it be that from Legal Positivism point of view, Law and Economics becomes an authoritative method of legal interpretation that should be followed by the judges? This shows that any method of legal interpretation can live side by side with Legal Positivism.

    I think that blaming Legal Positivism for Indonesian judges behavior is misleading. At the highest level, we are dealing with social facts, not normative issues. Prior to 1970s, Law and Economics was not a mainstream thought in the United States, but after the work of many people including scholars, law schools, and NGOs, it became a mainstream thought and currently holds a strong position in antitrust and corporate law cases (though weaker in the field of contracts and torts). The same thing might happen with the legal progressive movements in Indonesia. The question is, do they have a strong basis to convince our judges and lawyers to convert their belief or they simply don't have what it takes to survive in the field of legal theory? Time will tell.  
  • Quantifying the Law? Why Not?


    I attended a national conference on the rule of law last week. At the conference, I presented my paper on the application of public choice theory into legislation system in Indonesia.

    (Those interested to learn more about the subject can go to my website and search for the 'public choice' tags by clicking here)

    It was a nice experience and a good chance to see how Indonesian legal scholars perceive the law and its normative values. Having a quick reading on various papers, it seemed that abstract normative analysis still conquers the Indonesian legal scholarship, at least from the conference attendees. In this context, abstract means vague principles or values that are difficult, if not impossible, to quantify.

    For instance: the idea that law should promote the interests and happiness of the people, that law should promote justice and national interest etc. There is nothing wrong with promoting such ideas in terms of freedom of expression, but the problem is that abstract values usually stay vague in practice.

    In one discussion, a participant raised a question that is addressed to me: "Should we quantify the law?"

    I replied, "To some extent, of course, we should."

    If we want to speak about normative legal issues, about what should be done through the law for the betterment of the society, quantifying the law is absolutely necessary. This is, after all, the essence of all of my law and economics discussion in this blog.

    Normative law and economics uses terms like efficiency, costs and benefits analysis, and welfare maximization as tools to analyze quantitatively whether a law can really make a society better off after the enactment of such law, and whether a law will improve the welfare of the society or only imposing another unnecessary burden.

    We all know that the law should be made by the people, of the people and for the people. Not the other way around. But how can we really know that a law is made for the sake of the people if we do not have any standard for measuring a successful law?

    Therefore, how can we say that a law is good or bad if we are simply relying on abstract standards? Even worse, have any of you realize that politicians love those abstract standards because they can abuse them as a way of gaining votes or distracting public attention?

    Anti-corruption law is a good example. Politicians play with people's moral values when they toss the idea of whether death penalty should be abolished for corruptors. The debates range from the protection of human rights, the moral cruelty of corruption, to deterrence effect of the death penalty (on the basis that death penalty is the ultimate punishment).

    The notion of law and economics would criticize the above abstract discussion because frankly there is no way that we can resolve a conflict between those basic principles until the end of time. Some people still think from morality point of view that death penalty against human rights, while others think that it is fine if it is used to punish such a morally reprehensible act.

    Instead, law and economics will ask the following questions:

    1. Are there sufficient data supporting the claim that death penalty really reduces the rate of crime?

    2. Is death penalty an efficient sanction for corruption? Or should we instead focus on something else, such as taking away the corruptors assets and preventing them to take any other official positions?

    3. What would be the cost and benefits of having death penalty from procedural perspective? Is our criminal justice system ready to implement the higher standards of imposing death penalty?)

    By proposing the above questions, we are, in a sense, quantifying the issues that need to be tackled in order to formulating a good law. We think how the current procedural problems in administering death penalty will affect the people, the innocent and the villains (the costs that will be imposed to them); the impact of solving such problem to our state budget; the incentives that we will create for current and future corruptors, etc.

    Of course, quantifying the law might not be a perfect standard, but it would be better to have some concrete measures of success than none at all. And the above is just a really simple explanation. The same way of thinking can be used for analyzing any area of law, from criminal law to family law, and will be effective in analyzing controversial laws such as laws dealing with people's clothes.    

    Quick question, have we ever heard any of our politicians ask similar questions with the questions presented by law and economics? Most likely no.

    Why bother asking the public to think critically about very important issues if nice rhetoric is enough to make the public confused or to vote for the most dramatic act of politicians?
  • Birthday of The Capitalist Lawyer - 2nd Edition: Some Reflections on Legal Thoughts


    Today is my 28th birthday and I guess it would be nice to start a-once-in-a-year reflection in my blog (started it in 2009, but completely forgot to follow up in 2010, typical). I will not make any reflection about my life (nothing to reflect, it's a damn good life anyway), so for this year, I'll reflect the development of my own legal thoughts.

    I started my formal legal education in 2001 without knowing a thing about the law, I didn't know whether I will be interested with it or what I will do after I graduated. My primary reasons at that time? Just following my intuition plus chasing my dream of being admitted at the University of Indonesia (my second choice was UI's Political Science, don't ask me why I picked that, cause I can't answer that even until today). So yes, it's more about getting into UI rather than picking a subject that I really like. Fortunately, I was lucky. By the second semester I knew for sure that I love this subject!

    At first, my primary choice of specialization was constitutional law. 2001 was the time where many constitutional law professors secured high positions within Indonesian government. It was a transition era in the Republic and constitutional scholars were needed to guide the process. However, a fated encounter with a really weird lecturer caused me to change my mind entirely. It was so bad that I said to myself, "all the good professors are in the government now and we're stuck with these buffoons. Like hell I will take constitutional laws." So I decided to specialize in other fields: procedural and business laws. Again, I am a lucky guy. Turns out it's a correct decision, as now I work as a corporate lawyer, a profession that I literally enjoy not only professionally, but also academically.

    But those things only affect my professional skills. What really affects and shapes my legal thoughts is a whole different subject of law that I accidentally learned during my law school days, i.e. Islamic legal theory. It started with a challenge from my best friend, saying that I will never master Islamic law, because I can't differentiate the type of waters that you could use to purify yourself (wudhu). Of course, knowing how predictable I am, I took that challenge and soon I regularly went to UI's mosque's library. Although I planned to start with the library's classical Islamic law books collection, I ended up with Islamic legal theories first. And I was impressed, by the 9th century, Islamic legal scholars have already developed a concise legal theory that will put common law and civil law scholars at that time to shame.

    Granted, the current development of Islamic legal theory is pretty much gloomy (no new development), but I learned something from my personal study, the existence of a theory called Istislah or Maslahah Mursalah, which basically states that legal scholars, in the absence of clear legal rules, should take the welfare maximization of the society as a prime concern in deciding cases. The concept is simple, but the insight is very deep. Such insight helped me to think for the first time about what constitutes a good law.

    During my early years, I got an impression that my faculty only taught its students to become technical masters of law. We know the laws, we can easily apply them into concrete cases, and we are proud with that. The famous motto in my faculty, "If you're a law student, always talk with a legal basis." It's nice, but something is missing here. Being a technical master means that you are only acting as a spokesman of the law. You don't care whether it's good or not, heck, that's not even important. This is what I call as an abuse to Hans Kelsen's Pure Theory of Law (See my discussion on Kelsen at here, here, and here).

    So for me, this is non sense. This kind of education reduces the profession of lawyers into simple craftsmanship. Lawyers should be able to do more than that, they should be able to work as policy makers, they should analyze the quality of laws and propose a better version if they think that the current ones suck. Istislah theory helped me to see that error earlier and I am thankful for that.

    Now, when we're eventually getting into the question of what constitutes a good law, there are various methods to determine the standards. I started with the believe that a good law should reflect the society's sense of justice, local wisdom. But that belief didn't last long. Why? I come to realize that there is no standard for reflecting the society's sense of justice. In the end, it will always be a matter of preference. Suppose the society deems honor killing as a part of their justice system, would we still agree to enforce it in the name of local wisdom?

    Logically, I move forward to a standard which seems to be universal and applicable in every situation and condition. So I turned out to legal principles established by religious belief, i.e. Islamic law. Yet, it didn't satisfy me. Years of researches show that other than the agreement among Islamic scholars on the mandatory prayer, fasting, zakat and hajj, there is no unity of opinion in Islamic laws. Cultures or 'urf have a great impact on how scholars interpret the laws and there is a never ending debate on what standards that are deemed applicable for eternity and that are subject to changes. As a result, there isn't any production of worthy new ideas within Islamic law, it's just a repetition of the old ideas and debates that ended in the 15th century. Thus, I concluded that similar to the notion of society's sense of justice, Islamic law is not that reliable for providing a clear standard on what constitutes a good law. FYI, the use of Istislah itself is still controversial within Islamic legal scholars, so that could explain why its development has been halted for a very long time.

    Finally, I end up with the law and economics movement. It's ideas of welfare maximization and promotion of efficiency as guidelines for determining a good law really captivate me. First, I see law and economics as the modern interpretation of Istislah theory, its spiritual successor. Second, since it is a combination with economics, it is easier to assess the standards to determine whether they really work or not (empirical research is very encouraged in this field and I think it is very helpful). Furthermore, economics is a science that can be applied to almost every aspect of human life, so applying such science into legal conceptions prove to be an eye opening of things that we have already taken as granted. The notion that incentives matters still amaze me on how we can use different incentives to structure a law that will work efficiently and to explain the behavior of the people in facing the law and legal enforcement. 

    When I choose law and economics as my primary tool for assessing the quality of laws, I don't close the opportunity of using other helpful methods. No tool is perfect, and maybe in the future, we will develop an even better method for analyzing the law. But until that day comes, I'll stick for a while with law and economics.
  • Legal Analysis Tool Kit Series: Understanding Ex Ante Perspective


    A robber goes to a bank, takes a hostage and demands the bank teller to give the money or the hostage will die. The teller looks at the amount the bank holds, US$3,000, a petty amount of cash for a bank as big as this. But he refuses the robber's demand, and quickly rings the alarm. The robber goes panic, shoots the hostage and runs away. A few days later, the heirs of the hostage bring a suit to the court, asking the bank to pay a huge amount of damages due to the negligence of its teller. According to those heirs, considering the amount of the cash, it is not worthy to let the robber killed the hostage, so based on fairness, the heirs have reasonable arguments to claim the bank for damages due to the failure of its employee to make the right decision. Assuming that the there is no exact regulation concerning the claim, what should the court do?

    Although the court might have unlimited options, in reality, all of those options can be simplified into two category, to look backwards or to look forward. Looking backwards or using the Ex Post Perspective means that the court will only review how the event occurred and decide what to do about it or how to clean it up. Using this approach, the above case will be considered as a simple dispute between parties. One will win and one will lose. The court can look at past precedents or try to define what fairness really means based on various methods. In the end, either the bank or the heirs will come as the winner, and the case stops.

    The other option, looking forward or using the Ex Ante Perspective means that the court will consider the effects of its decision upon this case in the future, particularly on parties who might enter into similar situations and have not decided what to do, and whose choices may be influenced by what the law will say upon such case. This means that the court must carefully consider the incentives it may create through its decisions to other parties that might be affected by such decision in the future.

    Now, let us try to analyze the above case using both perspectives. First, let us use the Ex Post Perspective. Since we won't put much attention to the effect of the judgment, all we have to do is trying to analyze the case based on sources which have already existed before the event. We can try to find the answer from regulations and precedents. Or, because we have already made an assumption that the regulation is not clear on this issue, we can turn to the opinion of scholars and famous literature discussing this issue. Further, we can work on the most acceptable definition of fairness and try to implement such definition in this case in order to answer whether the teller's refusal to give the money to the robber is a fair action or not, and if it is not fair, whether the bank should pay damages to the heirs. Quite complicated, I must say.

    What about using the Ex Ante Perspective? Try to think the immediate effect of the court's decision if the court decides that the bank must pay a huge amount of damages to the heirs and suppose such decision becomes a final and binding precedent. This decision will affect other similar cases where robbers are holding hostages for the sake of getting money from banks. Logically, other banks will try to avoid the obligation of paying a huge amount of damages and therefore they would most probably instruct their employees to give the money to the robber especially when the robber has hostages in his hand.

    As a result of this, the probability of bank robberies that involves hostages will most likely increase. Why? Well, the robbers might not even know about the decision, but they can learn from the banks behavior. When they realize that having hostages in their hand increase their robbery success, they would quickly understand that having hostages is beneficial and therefore the use of hostages will increase naturally. Through this perspective, we learn that the effect of consenting the payment of damages to the heirs might be harmful to the society. Yes, from fairness point of view, it might not be fair for the heirs that the bank is not deemed liable for the death of the hostage, but for the sake of greater purpose, the court must make the right decision.

    Of course, other argument can be made in different conditions. An an example, suppose that it can be proofed in the court that the robbery occurred because the bank did not maintain a reasonable security force within the bank's office. Using the Ex Ante Perspective, the court should grant the payment of damages to the heirs on the basis of the bank's negligence to provide sufficient security force. What is the expectation here? The decision might provide an incentive to other banks who have less security force to actually increase such force in order to avoid the obligation of paying the damages. As a result of such increase, logically, the rate of robbery should go down as bank robberies become harder.

    Notice from both cases that although the results are different on who win the case, the intended effect is similar, i.e. preventing more crimes that will harm the public. And yes, the arguments that serve as the foundation of the decision must also be clear since it will definitely affect the incentives that the decision will create to the relevant parties.

    In my view, Ex Ante Perspective is very useful in drafting laws, regulations, and other public policies. We might not always know the actual effect of a law to the society, but, we must always remember that the law will definitely affect the society, even if it is only a little. Only by understanding this fact that legal drafter and judges will be more responsible in "creating" the law.

    For further reading material on this issue, I would suggest you to read The Legal Analyst by Prof. Ward Farnsworth. This is a good book for law students and lawyers who wish to develop their analytical skill to the next level. See you in other Legal Analysis Tool Kit Series.
  • Why the Pure Theory of Law Matters: Understanding the Misunderstood Kelsen (Part 3)


    In the third and also the last part of my article, we will discuss the actual implementation of Kelsen's theory of law and why such theory matters. If you have read all of my previous related posts and you are still reading this post, I must first congratulate you for your persistence and patience. I hope this article would be useful to help you in understanding the basic characteristics of the law. The Validity of Law and the Problem of Bad Laws In my opinion, the most important contribution of Kelsen's theory is the theory that the validity of the laws does not depend on their contents or the values represented by those contents but on: (i) how they were established (i.e. whether they were made based on a correct mechanism set out by higher norms), and (ii) the validity of the higher level's norms which enable those laws to be created. What are the implications? No matter how bad a law is drafted or no matter how ridiculous a law is, as long as the above requirements have been satisfied, a valid law is always a law and people should obey such law. Now, before you claim that I am a supporter of despotic governments who issue laws without any check and balance mechanism, please hold your tongue. If we know and understand that a valid law is still valid even though it is a very, very bad law, we must do our best to prevent such thing from occurring. Kelsen's theory is very useful here because it brings us to the cold reality, i.e., there is always a chance that a law is a bad law, and when such bad law is validly issued, it will become a valid bad law. Then, whether people like it or not, they would need to obey such bad law. Of course people can always disobey that law, but then they would live under the mercy of the officials who implement such law. While there are also mechanisms to review those bad laws in some countries, until a final and binding verdict is issued, those bad laws are still deemed to be valid, and there is no guarantee that the results would be in favor of those who oppose the enactment of such laws. Have you ever counted the amount of bad laws in Indonesia? One good example would be Law No. 24/2009 on the Flag, the Language, the National Emblem, and the National Anthem. You could see my discussion on this law here. This law has caused tremendous problems and uproars among the businessmen and lawyers due to its ambiguity and ridiculous requirements in drafting private agreements. But can we say that this is not a valid law, simply because it is stupid? No, we can't! We have to live with it until the law is amended or it has been judicially reviewed by the Constitutional Court. That's why we should always be mindful to the fact that laws are made by politicians where many interests were intertwined. It is true that the first drafts might be made by professionals legal drafters, but as soon as those drafts go to the parliament's commissions, we can only hope that they make the right judgment and decision (though we clearly know that they fail to do so in many instances). If you ask me, I'm not a supporter of the principle that laws should be made by ordinary common people through the parliament. The fact that these laws were made through democratic process (if we can call this absurd process as democratic) does not necessarily means that the end results would be good. Laws should be made by professionals based on a thorough research among the people. So that the Government can find or at least assess the true needs of the society and stipulate laws that can accommodate such needs. Specific values should be diminished and the Government should focus on stipulating laws that bring the greater good to the society, that could be easily understood by the people and that could be implemented effectively. Looks like an utopia, eh? Law as a Product of Men The next important contribution from Kelsen's theory of law is the theory that essentially, law is the product of men, it is not created by divine powers or supreme intellects. While this concept has been already recognized under the positive theory of laws, Kelsen brings the concept to the next level. Again, this has a deep relationship with his concept about the validity of the law. By rejecting the theory that law is derived from specific values created by divine powers or morality, Kelsen established the concept that the validity of the law is not related to its content. I couldn't less agree. The reason is simple, we can easily assess whether a law is made through the correct mechanism but we can't asses the correctness of a moral or religious value that becomes the underlying principle of the law. Determining the validity of the law based on its values would be horrendous because we do not have a universally acceptable standard and people could always challenge the validity of the laws by too many reasons. There are also other consequences of Kelsen's theory. I know that some prominent legal scholars believe that laws should reflect the values of the society where the laws were enacted. To certain degree, that might be correct, but not always. Imagine the new Qanun in Aceh that permits stoning for adultery. You can see my related post here. The Qanun makers stated that the Qanun is issued in accordance with the cultural believe of the Aceh's society. Assuming that this is true, can we accept this kind of law as the right one? I would say no! And I believe that most people would say the same. According to Kelsen's theory, the Qanun is a valid law. But how about those who believe in the relationship between law and society. Would they have the same view about the validity of this absurd Qanun? Kelsen's theory enables us to have a scientific method in assessing the validity of the law and we should be grateful for that. The Hierarchy of Laws Last, but not least, Kelsen's theory of law helps us to understand the nature of the hierarchy of laws which is very useful when we need to analyze different ranks of law and determine the validity of a law's provision. In Indonesia, Kelsen's concept has been implemented in Law No. 10/2004 on the Stipulation of Regulations where it states the basic hierarchy of Indonesian regulations and stipulates that the power of a regulation corresponds with its level in such hierarchy. There are a huge number of laws out there and there is always a possibility that some laws contravene other laws. This is especially right when we are dealing with the laws of a developing country where the laws are not well harmonized. Without a clear concept of the hierarchy of law, we would be confused in determining which law should be applied where there were two or more contradicting laws. By using the hierarchy of laws and the fact that this concept has been implemented in Indonesian regulations, we would have a solid basis in determining the applicability of valid laws in accordance with its level in the hierarchy, i.e. lower level laws cannot have provisions that contravene the provisions of the higher level laws. If such contravening provisions exist, the provisions of the lower level laws should be deemed as inapplicable. I encourage all lawyers to learn and to fully understand this concept as this is one of the basic skills in doing their job analyzing the regulations. Conclusions We have discussed some important implementations of the Pure Theory of Law and I hope that the discussion can enlighten us with respect to the nature and function of law. In the end, law is the product and tool of men, and therefore, it is up to us to make a law that can bring the greater goods to the society. We also know the danger of having a valid bad laws and we must do our best to prevent such thing from ever happening. Therefore, in the future, I hope, that the drafting of laws could be done by professional legal drafters supported by greater participation of the society.
  • Why the Pure Theory of Law Matters: Understanding the Misunderstood Kelsen (Part 2)


    In the first part of my article, we have discussed the basic concepts of Hans Kelsen's Pure Theory of Law. In this second part, we will discuss the concept of Norms, and the relationship between efficacy and validity of the law.
    Norms, the Hierarchy of Norms, and the Basic Norm A discussion on Kelsen's theory of law wouldn't be complete without discussing the Norms. As I've said previously, according to Kelsen, the law can be viewed as a specific social technique and as a norm. What is a norm? Kelsen describes norm as a rule expressing the fact that somebody ought to act in a certain way, without implying that "anybody" really wants the person to act that way. Further, Kelsen also defines norm as an impersonal and anonymous command (this is made by Kelsen to counter argue John Austin's definition of law, i.e. law as a command from a sovereign). From his definition, we can conclude three important concepts: (i) a norm is a rule that provide certain "guidelines" to its intended subject whereas such intended subject is ought to follow such "guidelines", (ii) a norm is neutral, it is not representing the will and interest of certain people or entity, and the most important thing is (iii) the validity of the norm is not related to the entity which stipulate such norm (that's why it is considered as an impersonal and anonymous command) but on the validity of the norm which gives authority to such entity. Following Kelsen's way of thinking, the validity of a norm (let us call it as Norm No. 1) shall be determined by the validity of the norm having the authority to create/establish Norm No. 1 (let us call this second norm as Norm No. 2) in accordance with the procedures stipulated by Norm No. 2. Logically, Norm No. 2 should have a higher level than Norm No. 1 and both should exist in the same order/system. If not, how can Norm No. 2 create and determine that Norm No. 1 is valid? Thus we've seen the birth of the Hierarchy of Norms. Pretty simple, eh? The process shall be repeated until we reach the highest level of the Hierarchy of Norms, where we will find the Basic Norm. What are the characteristics of the Basic Norm? According to Kelsen, the Basic Norm, unlike any other Norms, is not created in a legal procedure by a law creating organ. It is not -as a positive legal norm is- valid because it is created in a certain way by a legal act, but it is valid because it is presupposed to be valid because without this presupposition, no human act could be interpreted as a legal, especially as a norm-creating act. Among all other concepts that were introduced in the Pure Theory of Law, the Basic Norm is the most controversial one, especially with respect to the presupposition of the existence and validity of the Basic Norm. For some scholars, such presupposition defeats the entire purpose of the Pure Theory of Law to create a scientific legal theory. How could a scientific legal theory explain that the validity of the Basic Norm, which is basically the ultimate source of validity of all other Norms, thus acting as the core of the Pure Theory of Law, depends on a presupposition? I can understand their critics, but in this case, the presupposition should be correct. Citing Kelsen's own words: "The whole function of this Basic Norm is to confer law-creating power on the act of the first legislator and on all the other acts based on the first act. To interpret these acts of human beings as legal acts and their products as binding Norms, and that means to interpret the empirical material which presents itself as law as such, is possible only on the condition that the Basic Norm is presupposed as a valid Norm." Okay, the words might be confusing, but what are the truly meaning of these words? As mentioned in Part 1, apart from characterizing the law as a norm, the Pure Theory of Law also characterizes the law as a specific technique for social organization. The Pure Theory of Law also rejects any attempt to establish a relationship between the validity of the law and any value which may be reflected within such law. A law might be unjust or just, but being an unjust law doesn't necessarily means that such law is invalid. As a logical consequence, when we reach the Basic Norm level, the only way for us to conclude that the entire legal system is valid is by presupposing the validity of the Basic Norm. We need to remember that the Pure Theory of Law is always about the positive laws, laws made by men. Basic Norm as the ultimate Norm which enable all derivative Norms to be considered valid is derived from social facts and such Basic Norm becomes valid, because we assume it as a valid Norm. Let me give you an example: Why we stick with the 1945 Constitution and consider it as the basis of all laws stipulated in Indonesia? It is not a sacred document created by God, in fact it is a document made by a bunch of people that we call as the Indonesian founding fathers, which was later amended by the Indonesian parliament. It was once replaced by another constitutions and then we returned to use it using a decree of a president which is obviously has a lower status than the constitution. Yet, we're still using the 1945 Constitution and we still believe that all regulations in Indonesia should not contravene the 1945 Constitution and that all regulations in Indonesia obtain their validity since the 1945 Constitution allows the stipulation of laws and regulations. Yes, 1945 Constitution can be considered as a Basic Norm, but is it valid because it corresponds with justice or the interest of all Indonesian people? Not necessarily. It was not even drafted by the entire Indonesian people, rather it was made by a committee whose most members were appointed by Japanese government. It is without doubt that some Indonesian people might have different views with the idea of such committee and the content of the 1945 Constitution. Even the drafters of the 1945 Constitution and its amendments could have different views among themselves when they draft the 1945 Constitution. So why? Why we still use the 1945 Constitution? The answer lies in Kelsen's theory, the 1945 Constitution is valid and becomes the source of all Indonesian laws because we assume that the 1945 Constitution is valid. That is the only logical explanation, the principle of legitimacy. That's why Kelsen acknowledged in his "General Theory of Law and State" that the Basic Norm of a legal order can be replaced by a revolution which include the so-called coup d'etat. Validity and Efficacy of the Law Before we move on, let me explain first the meaning of efficacy. Efficacy of the law means the effectiveness of such law with respect to its effect to the society, i.e. the degree to which the law is being actually complied by the society. It is common for us to see laws which are so ineffective that the existence of those laws mean nothing to the society, and other type of laws which are very effective and have a high rate of compliance. The main question is, can we consider a law that is not efficacious as a valid law? In Kelsen's opinion, consistent with his theory, the efficacy of the total legal order is a condition for the validity of the relevant Norms, but not the reason for their validity, because the validity of a Norm depends on whether it is created in a constitutional way or not (please refer to above discussion on the Hierarchy of Norms). Therefore, the degree of compliance of law does not affect the validity of such law. In other words, it is possible for us to have a valid law which has a low degree of compliance or no compliance at law. One example that I could think of would be the regulation that obliges companies that have trade business licenses (SIUP) to submit periodical reports to the Department of Trade. Based on my experience, the percentage of non compliance for this particular obligation reaches 99.9999%. Pretty amazing! There is more to it. Kelsen also acknowledged that a law/norm wouldn't be valid anymore if the total legal system has lost its efficacy. Theoretically, this is correct. Suppose the current Indonesian legal system loses its efficacy, say because of a revolution, where the 1945 Constitution is entirely dismissed and replaced, and the government has been toppled up. Unless there is a new constitution having a transitional provision which says that the remaining laws remain to be valid, we would lose the legal basis to consider that such remaining laws are still valid. However, since the possibility of having such worst case scenario is very rare, we could stick to the basic principle of the Pure Theory of Law, i.e. the efficacy of the law does not affect the validity of such law. I believe that this is a very important concept having significant practical implications, and we shall further discuss such implementation in the last part of my post, where we shall also discuss the implementation of other parts of Kelsen's Pure Theory of Law.
  • Why the Pure Theory of Law Matters: Understanding the Misunderstood Kelsen (Part 1)


    Okay, I know that this blog is made for common readers, but I guess that writing a subject on legal theory and legal philosophy once in a while wouldn't do much harm. Besides, I cannot resist the temptation of writing this post. While Hans Kelsen is known as a prominent jurist and a worldwide respected legal scholar, he could also hold the first rank of the most misunderstood legal scholars of all time. There are so many critics to his legal theory (known as the "General Theory of Law" and the "Pure Theory of Law") that in some cases, his name and theory are recorded in law text books only for the sake of being criticized. Of course, this doesn't mean that his theory is less regarded than other legal theories since debating and criticizing are very usual in a well educated community. However, I feel that those critics are not the result of a correct understanding of Kelsen's theory. Instead, such critics were made on a false ground, a misunderstanding of Kelsen's real intention when he first declared his theory of law to the public. Personally, after reading Kelsen's book, "The General Theory of Law and State," it is very hard for me to understand the basis of the critics and attacks made toward his theory. In my opinion, Kelsen provides a solid basis for lawyers in understanding the law and its basic characteristics, i.e. law as a norm and as a specific technique for social organization. We'll take a look on these issues further (some will be discussed in Part 2). But, for the appetizer, let us discuss first some basic concepts of the General Theory of Law and the Pure Theory of Law. What is the General Theory of Law and the Pure Theory of Law? In my opinion, nothing can better describe Kelsen's theory of law than Kelsen's own words. Therefore, to ensure that my description of this theory could reflect Kelsen's original thought in the highest manner, I will stay as close as possible with the description made by Kelsen in "The General Theory of Law and State." Expect a little bit of copy and paste here. But don't worry, my personal comments will be made separately below. According to Kelsen, the General Theory of Law is a general theory of positive law and positive law is always the law of a define community (such as the law of Indonesia, the law of the United States, etc). Kelsen claims that his general theory is made as a result of a comparative analysis of the different positive legal orders, furnishing the fundamental concepts by which the positive law of a definite legal community can be described. Further, the subject matters of a general theory of law is the legal norms, their elements, their interrelation, the legal order as a whole, its structure, the relationship between different legal orders and finally the unity of the law in the plurality of positive legal orders. This kind of theory must derive its concepts exclusively from the contents of positive legal norms and therefore must not be influenced by the motives or intentions of regulators or the interests of the individuals to which they are the subject of such law, unless these motives and interests are manifested in the material produced by the lawmaking process. In other words, the general theory of law is directed at a structural analysis of positive law rather than a psychological or economic explanation of its conditions, or a moral or political evaluation of its ends. Next, what is the Pure Theory of Law? According to Kelsen, the Pure Theory of Law means that such theory is being kept free from all the elements foreign to the specific method of a science whose only purpose is the cognition of law. Further, Kelsen argues that a science has to describe its object as it actually is, not to prescribe how it should be or should not be from the point of view of some specific value judgments. The latter is a problem of politics, and as such, concerns the art of government, an activity directed at values, not an object of science, which is directed at reality. The Pure Theory of Law considers its subject (law) not as a more or less imperfect copy of a transcendental idea. It does not try to comprehend the law as an offspring of justice. It sees the law not as the manifestation of a super human authority, but a specific social technique based on human experiences. Consequently, it seeks the basic of law, i.e. the reason of its validity, not in a meta-juristic principle, but in a juristic hypothesis, i.e. a Basic Norm, to be established by a logical analysis of actual juristic thinking. My Notes on Kelsen's Theory of Law Referring to Kelsen's thought above, I can conclude that a general theory of law focuses only on the structure and content of the law. It analyzes the law as it is and it is neutral, i.e. it does not question and judge the values or ideas contained within a law which is not the concern of a general theory of law. I find this as enlightening, though I understand that some people may find this idea as distasteful, i.e. how can someone claims that a theory of law should be separated from value judgment, the idea of justice, the idea of good? Wouldn't this provide a theoretical support for a despotic ruler to establish laws in accordance with his own wish and interest, without any accountability and any check and balance mechanism? To tell you the truth, the answers are quite easy. First, a theory of law which depends on value judgment to analyze the law's validity will not work simply because it is impossible to determine a value than can be universally accepted by each and every men. As an example, who can perfectly define the term "Justice"? Even the great John Rawls with his magnum opus "A Theory of Justice," a book that has been prepared by him for more than 20 years, can't provide the perfected idea of justice to which every scholars would agree. The question of justice has been asked even by Socrates and Plato more than 2,400 years ago, and yet we have not resolved such question until today. There is also a greater reason why Kelsen made such separation. As noted above, Kelsen defines law as a specific social technique made by men, and that definition, in my opinion, becomes the core of the structure of Kelsen's theory. To cut it short, Kelsen's theory is methodological (which is in accordance with Kelsen's ambition to establish a scientific theory of law). As such, Kelsen's theory deals with the method of establishing and operating the law, not the background of why such law was made on the first place. As a logical consequence of this theory, the existence and validity of the law are no longer attached to morality, justice, religion, history, etc. Rather, a law would be deemed valid if it is created in accordance with the mechanism set out within a legal order/system (Kelsen believes that a law should be established in a coherent legal order/system, i.e. a positive legal order) and derived from a systematic hierarchy of norms, i.e. a law/norm's validity is determined by the validity of the law/norm having a higher level than such norm (this goes on until we reach the hypothetical Basic Norm (Grundnorm) which will be discussed further below). It is also worth to note that while Kelsen makes such separation in his theory, it doesn't mean that he doesn't care about the value judgment of law. He understand that whether you like it or not, every law in this world must be based on certain value and thus such law can be good or bad, just or unjust. We can't deny that fact. However, Kelsen views this value judgment issues as not an issue of legal theory, but more a philosophical question or political science issue and should be answered by philosophers and political scientists. I would add that economists and sociologists would also be helpful in answering these value judgment questions. For clarification purpose, while I do make a differentiation between the General Theory of Law and the Pure Theory of Law, they are actually inseparable, i.e. Kelsen's theory of law is a general legal theory purified from any non legal elements. This concludes Part 1 from my planned 3 Parts of Post. In the second part, we will discuss the concept of Norms and the relationship between the efficacy and validity of the law.

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